Genomic impact of transient low-dose decitabine treatment on primary AML cells

Blood. 2013 Feb 28;121(9):1633-43. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-09-459313. Epub 2013 Jan 7.


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is characterized by dysregulated gene expression and abnormal patterns of DNA methylation; the relationship between these events is unclear. Many AML patients are now being treated with hypomethylating agents, such as decitabine (DAC), although the mechanisms by which it induces remissions remain unknown. The goal of this study was to use a novel stromal coculture assay that can expand primary AML cells to identify the immediate changes induced by DAC with a dose (100nM) that decreases total 5-methylcytosine content and reactivates imprinted genes (without causing myeloid differentiation, which would confound downstream genomic analyses). Using array-based technologies, we found that DAC treatment caused global hypomethylation in all samples (with a preference for regions with higher levels of baseline methylation), yet there was limited correlation between changes in methylation and gene expression. Moreover, the patterns of methylation and gene expression across the samples were primarily determined by the intrinsic properties of the primary cells, rather than DAC treatment. Although DAC induces hypomethylation, we could not identify canonical target genes that are altered by DAC in primary AML cells, suggesting that the mechanism of action of DAC is more complex than previously recognized.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / administration & dosage
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Azacitidine / administration & dosage
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • CpG Islands / drug effects
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • DNA Methylation / drug effects
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Decitabine
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic / drug effects*
  • Genome, Human / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / genetics*
  • Leukemia, Myeloid, Acute / pathology
  • Mice
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Primary Cell Culture
  • Time Factors


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Decitabine
  • Azacitidine